Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Thompson Water, Norfolk.

The churchyard at St Mary's at Houghton-on-the-Hill sits in a very isolated location and is the perfect place to get away from it all and think.
This ancient site would undoubtedly have been for many centuries a staging post for migrant birds.  The church is at an elevated position and can be seen from many miles, this would certainly have been a regular focal point for many migrants which would have faithfully used the church and its surrounds to get their bearings.  And this continues to be the case today as my visits to the church and the immediate area in late summer and autumn always produces migrant passerine species which use the locality to rest, feed, and refuel.  I am sure this is the case with migrant raptor species as well as I have witnessed some excellent passage over the years, these sightings have included Honey Buzzard (2008), Osprey (2 on same day in September 2008), Harrier species, and Buzzards.  As well as natural features, I am sure that raptors use man-made features such as St Mary's as focal points for migration.  
No raptor passage seen today, however, the churchyard produced good numbers of migrant Warblers, especially Blackcaps, of which there must have been 8+ birds.  It is likely that some of the Blackcaps seen bred locally, however, it is fair to say that others were genuine migrants.
Blackcap (juvenile) St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the Hill, Norfolk 21/08/13 
Blackcaps at Houghton this morning were represented by all age groups and the above juvenile bird was seen to be fed by an adult male bird.  Blackcaps also fed upon Elder berries and one male often frequented a fruiting Guelder Rose bush.
A few Chiffchaffs were also present in the churchyard and surrounding area as were Blue, Great, and Coal Tits.  The shrill call of a Treecreeper was heard.
The pond close to the church held a beautiful male Bullfinch, a common bird but always a delight to see.
Overhead, a flock of 200+ Golden Plover wheeled around, these early returning migrants may have been in the area since July having left their upland Britain breeding grounds.  These waders may now stay through the winter period, however, if conditions are particularly bad they will ove to milder areas. 

An early afternoon visit to Thompson Water coincided with increasingly warm conditions.  Typically at this time of day, birds were relatively few and far between, but a few young Reed Warblers in water-side Sallows appeared to be begging for food.  Chiffchaff was also occasionally heard.
I decided to try and brush up on my Dragonfly identification, in doing so I had good views of male and female Emperor DragonflyCommon and Ruddy Darter Dragonflies.

Ruddy Darter at Thompson Water 21/08/13

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